Roach Family Papers

Manuscript Collection #346
Roach family
Physical description
0.43 Cubic Feet, 359 items, 2 volumes, consisting of correspondence, inventories, wills, estates, land records, legal records, slave deeds, financial records, tax receipts, poems, cipher book, account book, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Roach Family Papers (#346), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1728-1901) including correspondence, inventories, wills, estates, land records, legal records, slave deeds, financial records, tax receipts, poems, cipher book, account book, and miscellaneous.

Biographical/historical information

The Roach family was prominent in Craven County, N.C., during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Members of the family emigrated to Georgia and Indiana in the 1820s, where correspondence evolved. Charles Roach, Sr., his wife Polly, and their sons Charles, Jr., James, and David (see pedigree chart), constitute the central focus of the collection. Many administrative records exist for the Fornes, Summers, and Vincent families, for whom the Roaches served as estates administrators. (For genealogical information concerning the Roach family, see Jeannette C. St. Amand, Our Family Genealogy, 2nd ed., The Mary Nelson Smith Family, 1967.)

Scope and arrangement

Correspondence in the collection centers around land and money matters, for the most part; nevertheless, varied and wide-ranging subjects weave in and out of the papers. Antebellum letters from frontier settlements in Georgia and Indiana are significant. A letter (1821) from Shellyville, Georgia, asks for power of attorney to purchase land, and comments on the issuance of a land warrant and on the Chickasaw Purchase. Another letter (1822) from David K. Roach relates matters of personal misfortune experienced in Fort Hawkins, Georgia, and news concerning persons living near that settlement. David's letters from Macon, Georgia (1824 and 1825), contain accounts of illness and his need for financial assistance, working six days of the week, courting and church going on Sunday, the lack of sermons in the wilderness, and thoughts about marriage. In addition, land as a valuable investment commodity, social standing in Macon, and an inability to find wives illuminate aspects of frontier life. Alarm caused by Creek Indians, rampant political imbroglios and the inability of the Georgia legislature to transact business are recorded. Correspondence to James Roach from Indiana (1825) pertains to the harshness of wilderness life and the rewards of religious life. Land and its unsurpassed production, crops and yields are discussed, as well as social equality among frontier Indianans. A later letter (1852) comments on frontier life and preparations for emigration to California.

Three letters from the Civil War period constitute an important segment of the Roach Family Papers. A letter (1856) reveals the need of Hannah Roach Pearce to sell her Georgia slaves and her reluctance to do so. An important letter from lawyer William B. Rodman (1861) comments on North Carolina and Confederate enlistment regulations as they relate to minors, as well as Rodman's belief that certain young men of Craven County were not obligated to serve in the ranks. A letter (1863) from a North Carolina soldier in Virginia ambivalently solicits the attentions of a young lady and also remarks about skirmishes between Union and Confederate troops in Virginia. Moreover, the writer discusses the Virginian dislike of North Carolina troops and vice versa.

A post-war letter (1866) describes the effect of war on a North Carolina family. A Union raid on Swift Creek is mentioned, as well as an attempted break-in of a house by a burglar with the resultant accidental killing of an innocent victim. Other subjects commented on include a smallpox epidemic in New Bern and Swift Creek, plantation life without slaves, and an incident of blacks robbing and shooting a local resident.

Other correspondence pertains to a war pension (1820), the price of a slave in Fayetteville (1821), and a brother who set off from Dublin, Georgia, never to be seen again (1824). A late nineteenth century letter (1897) comments on the extraction of teeth.

Inventories, wills, and estates records in the collection comprise an important research source for genealogists. Inventories of estates, accounts of sales, and accounts of settlements of the Roach family list personal properties and slave lists. Similarly, records exist for John Summers and John Fornes, for whom the Roaches served as administrators of their estates. Wills (undated) are included for John Fornes and Dollie Vincent.

Land records in the collection reveal the acquisition of property near Swift Creek by the Roach family. Beginning in 1728 they began purchasing substantial holdings in the area and approximately twenty-five deeds can be found in the collection. Of particular significance is a deed (1857) to a tract of land originally included in the patent of John Grey Blount. In addition, land was bought by James Roach in Rappahannock, Va., in the gold region. Associated with his deed are a town survey plat (1857), a circular of the Rappahannock Pioneer Association (1857), and an early "sweepstakes" announcement of land winnings (ca. 1857).

Of interest in the legal papers are articles of agreement (1823) to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic; a court order (1830) investigating road repair in Craven County; a deposition (1814) that comments on a Henry Tison's service in the North Carolina Continental Line; and a certification (1864) that Charles Roach was unfit for military duty for medical reasons. Other records relate to notes of debt, powers of attorney, an agricultural lien, and orders to appear in court.

Slave records in Craven County (1825-1860) consist of seven deeds of purchase that give prices paid and personal information concerning particular slaves.

Records of finance, a large segment of the Roach Family Papers, consist of subscription receipts for various newspapers; receipts for tuition; provisions, medicines, and agricultural supplies; payments of claims; and accounts due. Included are tax receipts (1806-1866, undated) for personal and property taxes in Craven County. Of interest in these papers are two United States Direct Tax certificates (1865).

In the miscellaneous papers are advertisements (undated) pertaining to a Philadelphia firm and to the subscription of several Southern newspapers. A census of William's District, Craven County (ca. 1865) delineates men, offices held, and professions. Three poems (undated) pertain to the Mexican War emigration to Tennessee, and a slave promised, but denied, freedom. Two volumes exist: the first is a cipher book (1849), and the second, a notebook of Charles Roach (undated) containing accounts, lists of figures, and miscellaneous figures.

Administrative information
Custodial History

September 6, 1977, 359 items; Papers of Craven County, N.C., family (1728-1901), including correspondence, deeds, and grants, land surveys, financial records, and miscellaneous. Deposited by Mrs. Janis Witherington Cannon, Vanceboro, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Janis Witherington Cannon

Processing information

Processed by D. Lawson, December 1977

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Rodman, Will. B. (William Blount), 1817-1893--Correspondence
Family Names
Roach family
Corporate Names
Confederate States of America. Army--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.
Creek Indians--Georgia
Deeds--North Carolina--Craven County
Deeds--Virginia-- Rappahannock River Valley
Frontier and pioneer life--Indiana
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--North Carolina
Slavery--North Carolina--Craven County
Fort Hawkins (Ga.)--Description and travel
Macon (Ga.)--Description and travel
North Carolina--History--Civil War, 1861-1865

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